Protest defends welfare centre

Issue 
Photo: Peter Boyle

About 200 people rallied outside NSW government offices on May 3 to protest the decision of the NSW Liberal government to defund the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC), an advice and advocacy service for pensioners, the unemployed and other welfare recipients.

The $400,000 cut is 40% of the WRC funding (the rest coming from the federal government) and is seen as an attempt to silence a voice for the poorest sector of society. This follows federal Labor government cuts to sole parent pensions, a step which plunged thousands more women under the poverty line.

A worker from the centre said: “The welfare rights centre will remain open and we will still have our legal service. But we have had help-lines open five days a week, and we won’t be able to run those helplines because of the NSW government decision.”

Speakers condemned the move by the state government to withdraw $400,000 in funding, while claiming the centre should be financed solely by the federal government.

“The people who come to you for support, who come for very basic legal assistance, that can mean the difference between life and death, it can mean the difference between keeping your children and losing your children.”

Several speakers stressed that the centre's work actually saved money by helping keep some people out of homelessness and out of jail.

The rally determined to keep the WRC open, and to continue the campaign to reverse the cuts.